Coroner Rules August Death of Man Near Walupt Lake a Homicide by Gunshot Wound 


The Lewis County coroner has ruled the August death of a Portland man on a hiking trail near Walupt Lake in East Lewis County a homicide with the cause being a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a news release issued Wednesday evening. 

Aron Christensen was found dead on Aug. 20 along with his dog after going on a solo hike during a camping trip with friends. 

His family and friends have been critical of the investigation by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and coroner, citing a lack of information.

No arrests have been made and there has been no information released by the sheriff’s office regarding suspects in the case. 

The Chronicle published a story Tuesday detailing the criticisms of Christensen’s family regarding the investigation and handling of the case. That story is below. 

This article will be updated. 

Statement Issued by Family of Man Who Died Near Walupt Lake; Sheriff’s Office, Coroner Say Investigation Is Ongoing

Editor’s note: This article is a followup to a story included in last Saturday’s edition of The Chronicle. Read previous coverage here:

As frustration over unanswered questions continues to grow two months after 49-year-old Aron Christensen and his dog were found dead on a hiking trail near Walupt Lake, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying it is still actively investigating the case, but that prematurely releasing information could jeopardize the ongoing investigation. 

Christensen’s family went public with its concerns with a statement on social media, prompting The Chronicle’s most recent request for information. 

A spokesperson for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office sent the following statement to The Chronicle via email on Tuesday: “This case is still very active. We are waiting for some testing to be done by the crime lab, which has to be done consecutive to each other. As mentioned previously, it is believed the release of further details while awaiting additional forensic findings and follow-up investigation could jeopardize the case. We are not trying to be secretive, but rather withholding information at this point to provide the best investigation we can for the decedent as well as his family and friends. Our goal is to maintain the integrity of the case until such time it is appropriate to release further details.” 

Soon after The Chronicle published an article detailing Christensen’s friends’ account of Christensen going on a solo hike with his dog, Buzzo, on Aug. 19 and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s response to a hiker finding the bodies of Christensen and his dog, Christensen’s family issued the following public statement on the case, though The Chronicle has been unable to verify specific claims:  

“Aron and Buzzo were both shot. Their wounds were bullet wounds. The family was told Aron was shot one time and there is conflicting information on how many times his four-month-old puppy Buzzo was shot. The sheriff’s office and the county coroner initially reported that Aron had died of a heart attack and there was no foul-play involved. A week after Aron’s body was found, the county coroner reported to the family that Aron and his dog had both been shot. The sheriff’s office told Aron’s family that the shooter is a 19-year-old male from the area, who initially admitted to shooting Aron and his puppy. They have not named the 19-year-old man. The sheriff’s office reported to the family that a 16-year-old female was also present during the shooting. As far as the family knows, these two individuals were only questioned once, the day after Aron’s body was found, and the man admitted to shooting Aron and his puppy. No arrests have been made. The sheriff’s office told the family on three separate occasions to not ‘go to the media’ and even chastised the family when a small article about the investigation was published in September indicating his death was under investigation. The family had not gone to the media on the instruction of the sheriff’s office as they were told to wait for cause of death reports to be completed. Those reports have still not been completed and it's been over 60 days since Aron's death. The sheriff’s office will not provide the family with any information about why there have not been any arrests made or charges filed. The sheriff’s office will not provide the name of the shooter or that of the accomplice. The sheriff’s office on multiple occasions has referred to this as a ‘sensitive case’ and described the shooter and accomplice as ‘good kids.’ The county coroner went so far as to say, ‘we don’t want to convict these kids if they didn’t do anything wrong.’ The sheriff’s office and the witness who found Aron and Buzzo described the scene as quiet, implying there was not any appearance of any type of scuffle or argument. Buzzo, Aron’s new puppy, was found lying dead approximately five feet from Aron’s body … The family is heartbroken and simply wants answers about not only what happened, but accountability for the person responsible for shooting and killing their son, brother, uncle, and friend. They also hope that the systems that have delayed the answers they are looking for are held accountable. If anyone has any information, the family would greatly appreciate your help.” 

The sheriff’s office was provided a copy of the family’s statement and declined to comment on the particulars. 

Lewis County Coroner Warren McLeod provided the following comment in response to the statement from Christensen’s family: 

“We are still waiting for the final report from the forensic pathologist determining the cause and manner of death based on the autopsy and other forensic testing, which take time.

Information regarding the puppy is being handled by the sheriff’s office as we only deal with deceased humans. The family was told by this office that we did not want to prematurely rush to make a determination of cause and manner of death before all the testing was completed which could result in charges against the people involved. We owe a duty to one thing in forensics and that is the truth regarding cause and manner of deaths. I fully understand the family’s frustration in this case but these testing procedures take time and it is our intent to complete a thorough investigation into every death we handle.”